Aug 04

Ideas, Innovation, Action


Uploaded on July 2, 2007 by pictoscribe

I was just thinking I needed some inspiration to write a post and Rob Sheffield emailed to point me at WhyNot? an ideas exchange from Profs Ayres & Nalebuff of Yale. Rob and I had been chatting recently about creativity, entrepreneurship and intersections between ideas. I’ve not seen this site, though it seems similar to global:ideas:bank and a couple others.

The concept is simple enough that you apply the wisdom of the crowds to identify the best ideas. People are free to post their idea, everyone votes on them and the best float to the surface. WhyNot? seems to be suffering from lack of participants, the top rated ideas are all from 2003 vintage and have just over 100 votes each (except for the top idea that has 337 votes). With over 3,500 ideas and 5 years you’d expect a bit more activity. WhyNot? uses a very simple vote count to determine the best ideas (Support, Neutral, Oppose).

The global:ideas:bank has a few more ideas (just over 6,000) and a different rating system based on % for Feasibility, Originality & Humour. The drawback here is that a small number of high rating gets you to the top. There doesn’t appear to be any weighting for a balanced opinion.

Of course Digg has been surfing the wisdom of the crowds for some time. Google also uses a variation on this to track site traffic and links and back-links to work out which are the best sites (or solutions) to your problem (or search query). There’s a whole industry in getting your product announcement to the top of Digg and your site to the top of Google (I just did a search for Angel Networks and Oprah has the top two spots on Google).

Digg and Google are successful (in small part at least) because there is an instant path to action. You find something at the top of the list that addresses your need and you click the link to go to the site. Alternatively, if you have a problem looking for a solution (or a site looking for ad traffic) then Digg and Google also work quite well for you. The challenge with many of the other idea exchange formats is that there’s no champion or pathway to change. So you vote an idea as being great, so what, does anything happen?

That’s the great benefit of purposeful network events like BEN, OpenCoffee (disclosure: I run OpenCoffee Bristol) and SeedCamp. They’re great melting pots for ideas because they go out of their way to bring diverse groups together. They also do this with a clear objective in mind; learn something new that will make you and your business more enterprising, find people in your city/region to help grow your business, hook up with investors and springboard your start-up.

They also give people the time and space to figure out who they can work with before disclosing the golden nugget idea. They also have the wider network to help bring the idea to some degree of realisation.

So how do you get your ideas to become reality? If it’s your idea, how do you find your partners and collaborators? If you’re into making things happen, how do you find cool ideas to work on?

Jul 22

Carrotmob Bristol an update

Well a lot has been happening and there are a couple of conversation threads so I thought I’d put up a quick ‘story so far…’

Craig Hellen (Pod Chains) brought up Carrotmob at the OpenCoffee meeting on 1 July. We were talking about Seedcamp and various ideas for supporting innovative new businesses across the South West. Craig kind of lobbed Carrotmob in as a thought grenade and since none of us had heard of it it kind of fizzled out until later that evening when I’d had a chance to see the video and twittered it.

Craig and I swapped a couple of DM’s but everything pretty much went quiet until he shared an email he’d just received from Brent at Carrotmob saying what a great thing it’d be to see a Carrotmob campaign in Bristol. That got us going again and I dropped Kevin O’Malley a note at Connecting Bristol to drum up some more interest from the wider readership that he gets. I also got in touch with Bristol City Council as they organise the Harbour Festival and we’d (Craig and I) thought that’d be a great event to put Carrotmob alongside.

Following Kevin’s post and another twitter post lots of folks responded (@Z303, @mikedunn, @emargee, @PeteJ, @wrestlevania, & @bluerocket) so we set up a room in Friendfeed to discuss and share. Then Jacob Park from Carrotmob got in touch and Zoe and I swapped a couple emails with him and that lead to the suggestion that we (Bristol) might work with Carrotmob testing an application to help folks put together their own Carrotmob’s.

Which is all really cool!

The drawback is their application probably won’t be public until October, and it’s now only 10 days to the Harbour Festival (9 by the time I post this).

All of which means we’re still really keen to see Carrotmob come to Bristol, and we’re going to be helping Brent & Jacob specify and test their application, and we’re going to keep building the momentum here ready for a (probable) Halloween launch!

Right now the best way to register support is probably to join the Friendfeed group and/or subscribe to this blog. That way we’ll know you’re specifically interested in Carrotmob rather than my general ramblings, and you’ll find out more information as it becomes available. You can also leave suggestions in the comments for other groups to partner up with to make Carrotmob Bristol really take off.

Also, if anyone wants to take the lead in organising the Bristol Campaign, let us know and head over to the Carrotmob sign up page.

Happy mobbing

Carrotmob Makes It Rain from carrotmob on Vimeo.

Jul 15

Hidden Innovation in the Creative Industries


Uploaded on June 26,
2008 by Phil Hawksworth

Yesterday was spent in Manchester at the NESTA launch of their latest report (pdf not live yet) into innovation in the Creative Industries.

From a broad reading of the report, it seems to largely reflect last year’s report that much innovation in industry isn’t recorded in official statistics rather than not taking place. The Creative Industries face a further double whammy since very small and micro companies (under 10 employees) are excluded from the official returns, as are many of the SIC codes that cover the sector. Prof’s Ian Miles and Lawrence Green recognise that the existing surveys are a potential burden that the micro companies could probably do without, except that without the evidence base there won’t be policy and incentives from central Government.

This could be a valuable role for places like the Pervasive Media Studio and Universities? Aggregating and presenting an industry perspective on behalf of the micro business communities?

Most of the findings from the case study interviews could apply across pretty much any sector. Customers are more sophisticated, networked, discriminating and active. Not sure there are many industries where that isn’t the case. One point of note was a comment from the video games industry (one of the 4 sub-sector foci) for novel titles, sophistication and interfaces – wonder how that translates to the explosion in casual & mobile gaming, Kongregate, Gameloft, the Wii etc?

One aspect that might be unique was the reported lack of innovation management. Some of this is undoubtedly down to the speed of change and comparative size of companies, but may also be down to a culture of perpetual beta. Many of the associated issues that have been reported could be related to company size. How many firms under 10 employees have a dedicated R&D budget, or a formal knowledge management system whatever industry they’re in?

How about providing/managing a framework for Open Innovation as a role for HE in the creative sector?

Jun 30

Learning un-learning


Uploaded on 12 May, 2006 by Marvin (PA)

I hot-footed it from Cheltenham to the Pervasive Media Studio a couple nights back for a Gurteen Knowledge Cafe. The topic was ‘unlearning’ which is a sufficiently interesting topic for a Knowledge Transfer/Exchange professional to drag me out and through the wind and rain that Bristol chose to throw at us!

I wasn’t entirely sure what ‘unlearning’ was; I’d constructed a meaning that was roughly a bit more purposeful than forgetting. The brief presentation from Daniel Doherty (University of Bristol, Management School) ranged from the quite possibly certifiable Institute of Unlearning through to more constructivist (and believable) approaches.

There was quite a bit that bordered on (or was overtly about) brainwashing and ‘re-programming’ people Leaving aside the ethics and morals of those particular applications of unlearning, the discussions were mainly around trying to decide if there was more to it than situational flexibility. We touched briefly on meta-physics in trying to figure out how far back into perceptions of reality you had to go before it became ‘unlearning’.

Quite a few of the examples described were really just putting one set of learnt behaviours or patterns of thought aside to more effectively address a particular situation. We didn’t feel (and I’m speaking in the royal ‘we’) that this represented unlearning. Quite a few of the proposed unlearning situations (miltary training, regime change, etc) are externally imposed. Even if there is a degree of consent there is an external mechanism, framework and big shouty Sergeant Majors moulding you to become the best of the best of the best. Sah!


Uploaded on 12 May, 2006 by minxlj

I was curious to see if anyone could propose an instance where that level of ‘unlearning’ could be initiated and carried through in a purely individual framework. Apart from physical impact injuries to the skull, or psychotic drugs, there didn’t appear to be. Which got me to wondering if in fact unlearning is something that you can consciously undertake.

Even more benign approaches to unlearning, such as the coporate merger or unlearning intolerace require external intervention. The incoming organisation (or new CEO) will impose ‘their’ view on the organisation being absorbed. The UN has a conference series on unlearning to help people identify strategies to tackle intolerance in their societies through education, inclusion and example.

There’s no doubt that you can learn new patterns and behaviours that are more effective to the changing circumstances and social ‘norms’. Can you unlearn without the rather scary brainwashing aspects, I’m less sure. The brain is remarkably good at retaining data, sometimes we are less good at retriving it and most of us can’t recall every detail of every second of our lives, but I think it’s all in there.

Thanks go to Ed for organising and the Pervasive Media Studio for the venue.

Jun 13

Bristol Design Festival

Just back from the opening of the Bristol Design Festival down in the old Fire Station. Don’t let the website put you off (it’s a bit Flash heavy and not very up to date). The festival is getting underway with a wide range of product and concept designs, including the ever popular Grafikea.

Upstairs is the Expressions design show from UWE final year students, quite a few dealing with various packaging and fast food solutions (obviously close to the interests of students) but also some very clever ideas including a neonatal incubator designed to encourage and strengthen the bond between between premature babies and their mothers.

Lack table

The main floor has design consultancy showcases from across Bristol (and beyond) and the Grafikea exhibits. Mobile Pie have set up an SMS voting system so you can text your vote for the best example of what you can do with a Lack table from Ikea, and you can buy your favourite table direct from the artist (prices vary, the ones I saw went from £15 up).

Lots to look forward to over the coming 4 days:

  • Spike Design (Spike Island) Sat, 14 to Thur 19 June, 10:00-18:30
  • Drop In Design (The Old Fire Station) Sat, 14 June, 11:00-16:00
  • The Pitch in partnership with businesszone.co.uk (The Old Fire Station) Mon, 16 June, 14:00
  • Designer Karaoke (The Watershed) Mon, 16 June, 18:30-23:00